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As Feinstein asks off Judiciary Committee, Rep. Dean Phillips joins calls for her resignation

Rep. Dean Phillips calls for Sen. Diane Feinstein to resign
Rep. Dean Phillips calls for Sen. Diane Feinstein to resign 01:09

Washington — Sen. Dianne Feinstein is facing pressure from within her own party to resign amid a lengthy absence due to her health. 

Rep. Ro Khanna of California called on the longtime California senator to step down on Wednesday as she recovers from shingles. 

"We need to put country ahead of personal loyalty," Khanna said in a tweet. "While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people." 

Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota said he agreed. 

"Sen. Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable," he tweeted. "But I believe it's now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet." 

Phillips said in an interview with WCCO that Feinstein's shingles is "not the issue."

"The issue is mental acuity and competency and ability to serve," he said. Before her latest health problems, there had been concerns about her mental fitness during reports that her memory was failing.

Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota said the decision is Feinstein's to make, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Feinstein did the right thing by stepping down from the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

In a statement Wednesday night, the 89-year-old Feinstein said that her return to Washington "has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis," adding that she will return "as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it's safe for me to travel."

Feinstein also said that she has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to appoint a Democratic senator to "temporarily" replace her on the Senate Judiciary Committee until she returns. Schumer said in a statement later Wednesday night that he would ask the Senate "next week" to fulfill her request.

Feinstein announced on March 7 that she was out of the hospital and receiving treatment at home as she recovered from the infection. She said she looked "forward to returning to the Senate as soon as possible." A week prior to that, she said she hoped to be back in Washington later in March. 

The Senate has been in recess since March 31, but returns next week. 

Feinstein has missed nearly 60 votes since her diagnosis in late February. She last voted on Feb. 16. 

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently told CNN that her absence has slowed the confirmation of federal judges. 

"I can't consider nominees in these circumstances because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee," Durbin said of the 10-10 partisan breakdown. 

Following Durbin's comments, former President Barack Obama's speechwriter Jon Lovett said Feinstein should step down. 

"Dianne Feinstein should no longer be in the Senate," he said on the podcast Pod Save America. "She should resign and more people should be calling on her to resign." 

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested sexism was behind the resignation calls. 

"Sen. Feinstein has been a champion for California," Pelosi told CBS San Francisco. "For 20 years, I have been the leader or the Speaker of the House fighting for California and I have seen up close and firsthand her great leadership for our country, but especially for our state of California," Pelosi said. "She deserves the respect to get well and be back on duty. It's interesting to me. I don't know what political agendas are at work that are going after Sen. Feinstein in that way."  

Days before she was hospitalized, Feinstein said she would not be seeking reelection in 2024.  

Nikole Killion contributed to this report. 

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